Residents share concerns during DeFoor Town Hall

Residents share concerns during DeFoor Town Hall
At-Large Group 4 Councilman Matt Carlucci addresses the crowd during a town hall sponsored by District 14 Councilwoman Randy DeFoor Oct. 24.

More than 100 residents, city and elected officials, including At-Large City Council Members Matt Carlucci and Tommy Hazouri gathered for Councilwoman Randy DeFoor’s first area town hall since her election in May of this year. The meeting was conducted at Riverside Presbyterian Church Oct. 24.

During the meeting, DeFoor, who represents District 14, and others shared a laundry list of possible city projects and concerns, including traffic calming, Riverside Park improvements and a bill called J-1 that would make the Duval Superintendent of Schools a mayor-appointed position. A large portion of the night was spent on talk of beautifying and improving public spaces.

Planned park improvements

Several members of Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) were also in attendance as well as members of the Murray Hill Preservation Association. So was Daryl Joseph, director of Jacksonville Parks, Recreation and Community Services. He said the city had “some exciting things planned with regard to Riverside Park.”

The city had set aside $2 million for improvements but  may have to increase that dollar amount if it wants to do it right, as it is an entryway into the area, he said. DeFoor said later  the park would get “a complete overhaul” but right now, the city wanted to get “a plan for a plan.” To accomplish  that wouldinvolve reaching out to community members and associations and figuring out what improvements residents would like to see, as well as their thoughts on the duck pond, which she described as hard to maintain.

Joseph also said that there are ideas on the table to beautify John Murray Forbes Park. The city is working with RAP and St. Vincent’s Hospital, which is adjacent to turn the park into a space everyone can use, he said.

Jose Lazcano, Murray Hill Preservation Association board member, was also on hand to promote efforts to clean and showcase the park across from Ruth N. Upson Elementary School in Murray Hill. He said the group would have “Murray Hill Day” Saturday, Nov. 9, an all-day event on the corner of Kingsbury and Dancy, set to include a park cleanup in the morning, a fundraiser for the school, live music and a free movie in the park.

School bill

On the political side, one of the first topics discussed was the J-1 bill, which if passed by voters, would call for the City Superintendent of Schools to be elected rather than appointed by the school board.

“It appears that the J1 Bill was in response to the Superintendent and School Board request for a half-cents sale tax. The School Board actually has the authority to ask that the Superintendent be elected and they have not made such a request,” she said after the meeting. “If you look at school districts in large municipalities, no one has an elected superintendent. It is not in the best interest of our community.”

DeFoor voted to pass At-Large Group 4 City Councilman Matt Carlucci’s resolution against the bill at the last city council meeting but the vote was tied 9-9 and the resolution was considered defeated, Carlucci said. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Jason Fischer, a former school board member. If it passes a local delegation and then the Florida Senate and House, it would then go to voters as a referendum.

Carlucci attended the meeting and spoke fondly of DeFoor, saying that even though their early interactions during council discussions were adversarial in nature, they have come to respect each other. 

DeFoor said she is working on a town hall in Murray Hill next.

By Jennifer Edwards
Resident Community News

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